Project Dignity wins social enterprise of the year award

Project Dignity staff receiving the President's Challenge Social Enterprise of the Year award.
Project Dignity staff receiving the President's Challenge Social Enterprise of the Year award.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - After five years of running a hawker centre employing people with disabilities, Project Dignity was given the President's Challenge Social Enterprise of the Year award on Wednesday.

With the $50,000 prize, Project Dignity executive director Koh Seng Choon plans to treat his staff to a one-day trip - "maybe to Batam" - to reward them for all their hard work.

Mr Koh, 56, started Project Dignity in 2010 to give employment, training and dignity to people with disabilities. Today, he employs 61 staff, 42 of whom have physical or intellectual disabilities, and financial challenges.

They work across his various projects - a hawker centre in Serangoon called Dignity Kitchen, and Dignity Mama stalls selling donated used books in hospitals.

Over the past five years, Project Dignity has also trained more than 360 people with disabilities for jobs in the food and beverage industry. Something Mr Koh estimates has a "social impact of more than $4 million a year", if each of these are gainfully employed for at least $1,000 a month.

Awards were also given out in three other categories. The Social Entreprise Start-up of the Year went to Society Staples, the Youth Social Enterprise of the Year went to Sustainable Living Lab, and the SG50 Social Entreprise Award was given to NTUC FairPrice for providing goods at affordable prices for 42 years.

The President's Challenge Social Entreprise Award is in its third year and had 42 nominees participate this time round.

Mr Wong Yong En, 22, who is intellectually disabled and has been working at one of the Dignity Mama stalls for three years enjoys interacting with customers.

"I can talk to a lot of people and recommend some books if they want to buy," said Mr Wong.

His mother Wendy said: "I'm very happy and relieved that he's employed in the community, in a very normal enviroment."

kxinghui@sph.com.sg